THE impact organised drugs gangs have on their young and vulnerable victims has been captured in a series of powerful short films created by University of Sunderland students.

Northumbria Police and SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) wanted to raise awareness and support victims of county lines drug gangs.

This is the seventh year Sunderland students have been part-funded by the Police Crime Commissioner's community fund, to collaborate with Northumbria Police in raising awareness about an issue impacting on society.

The theme has proved a timely assignment for final-year students from the Performing Arts, Media Production and Screen Performance degree courses.

The students researched, scripted, devised, filmed and edited all five films. Their work was showcased during an awards ceremony at the David Puttnam Media Centre, Sir Tom Cowie Campus, at St Peter’s on January 3. The winning entry – ‘The Lines’, follows the journey of a young girl who has been working in county lines for some time, and the scenarios she must face in navigating this dark world.

Adelle Hulsmeier, Lecturer in Drama and Performing Arts at the University of Sunderland, said: “The topic again has not been easy and the students have tackled it incredibly well, we are so proud.

The students then devised a piece of drama suitable for use as an awareness DVD in order to be used as an educational or training tool for the police and specialists, and to promote awareness of this issue further afield.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, whose Community Fund has helped fund the project said: “County lines is a growing problem across the country and in Northumbria we want to get ahead of it – reaching the right young people, who are perhaps showing signs of vulnerability, and stopping them getting swept up into a world of criminality.”

There was input into the films from Michelle Sheridan, manager at SARC and Collette Devlin-Smith at Edge North East, which tackles serious youth violence and child criminal exploitation, training and mentoring.

Adelle said “The issue of county lines appears to be at the forefront of new crime, that everyone is trying to gain a better understanding of, in terms of its scale and impact. Hopefully we are offering a great resource for training and educational purposes for Northumbria Police, SARC, Edge North East and their partners.

“It is not always clear who the victim and who the criminal is in situations of this nature, and that has been important to tackle in the films. We are so grateful to have Michelle Sheridan and Collette Devlin-Smith helping the students with their projects.”

SARC manager Michelle Sheridan said: “The underpinning ethos to all of this work from the outset and continues to be that of: educate people in order to prevent such crimes.

All five entries were judged by a panel from Northumbria Police and the winner was unveiled during a ceremony attended by the Vice Chancellor, Sir David Bell and Assistant Chief Constable, Rachel Bacon. There was also a guest appearance by North East Hip-hop rapper, Kay Greyson.